Karen's Corner: Small Space Gardening Considerations (for Balconies, Patios, etc.)

Karen is a regular reviewer and blogger for Day Undefined. In her series, "Karen's Corner," she invites you to join in her love of gardening and other hobbies and shares her tips for making them more accessible. 

If you live or garden in a small space, this blog is for you! I am including some  reference articles on gardening on your balcony. There is a lot to share, and I may have missed some points. Always think safety first! As stated before I am not an expert on gardening, but hope I can share some tips on adaptive gardening. I have tips based on over 10 years of living with Ataxia and adjusting from in-ground to container gardening. I am just now starting a raised bed garden for the first time  and also enjoy hydroponic gardening (more about that in a later blog).

In addition to the following links, please search for more online. I claim no expertise, but share adaptive tips based on gardening on my deck and at my front door. I do not seek to re-invent the (gardening) wheel. 


  • Start Small
    • Decide if you will grow flowers or edibles.
    • Don’t be over ambitious: enjoy the small successes first.
    • It’s okay to start with just one or two plants.
  • Stay Seated!
    • Most of what you want to accomplish can be done from a chair
    • If you must hold a heavy object, do it while seated,  with the object being carried aways front and center to your body (keep your balance)
  • Determine your gardening workspace
    • I  use my patio table and a patio chair with a 4” cushion
    • Make sure there is room for all your tools and supplies
    • Allow room for your easy access to  bags of soil, compost & mulch
    • Keep your walking/rolling path free of  objects and debris
    • Have a “Reacher” handy
    • Set up your space in advance of gardening tasks
  • Use long-handle gardening tools to minimize the need for bending
  • Always wear Gardening Gloves!  
    • If needed, I have long length rose gloves meant to protect you from skin pricks on your arms
    • There are many other styles of gloves available, including cotton, plastic coated, and leather. These are a wrist-length pair with a beautiful design in purple with red, turquoise and yellow:
Wrist-length gardening gloves with a feline design in bright reds, yellows and turquoise with bright purple accents on the finger tips and wrists.
  • Determine your USDA planting zone, and available LIGHT
  • As tempting as it is, do not buy flowers/plants on impulse!
    • Do some online research:
      • Suitable plants for containers or raised bed gardens
      • Plants that will thrive for the available light on your balcony
      • Level of maintenance, i.e., pruning, watering, nutrients required
  • Figure out how you will get water to your plants!
    • I keep covered 5 or 10 gallon buckets/containers on my deck
    • I leave them open to catch rain
    • My gardening ‘partners’ refill them as needed
    • I DUNK/submerge smaller plants in a container filled with water, that includes  baskets, rather than ‘sprinkle them with water (waters more thoroughly).
    • For intermittent watering, I use a sturdy tray to carry a collapsible watering can on my rollator (see image below, left). I carry it to the patio door while seated, then transfer to the walker I use on the patio (see image below, right):
A green watering can with a collapsible clear plastic "belly" filled with water is sitting on a walker.Now the flexible watering can is sitting at the feet of a person wearing pink crocs. A walker is on an outdoor deck in front of the person, where the watering can will go..
    • For large containers, I snip off the bottom of a soda/pop plastic bottle and bury it upside-down, cap removed, partially in the soil. That makes watering directly to the plant roots easy! Here are two photos:
On left, a close-up of a green soda bottle turned upside down in the dirt of a potted plant. The bottom is cut off. On the right, the same thing but from farther away.



  • Recruit a gardening partner
    • It can be an experienced gardener, or “muscle” to move soil, water, etc. around for you…the heavy tasks
    • Try to notify your gardening partner when you need their help in  advance (I ask a few days ahead of time when I think I will need help and also let them know what type of help.)


To move around easily as well as ‘tote’ supplies, I bought 2 standard aluminum frame walkers at a thrift store ($4 each) and bought walker trays for each.  For fun, I painted them and sealed the trays with resin. (not necessary—I just tend to be “extra” with decorating things!) Here's a photo of one with a blue and white stripe and floral design:

A silver walker with a tray that has been decorated with a design of blue and white stripes and a pink flower
REMEMBER: “Nothing ventured, Nothing gained.” Despite the pretty pictures, I have had some big gardening failures, all because I did not read or follow directions. Remember, vegetable gardening from your balcony is also possible, fun, fascinating and rewarding! HAPPY, JOYOUS GARDENING!



  • Gloves: Here is an example of long, pick-proof rose gardening gloves. (Have fun finding a design you like - Laurel Burch Studios makes pretty ones, too!)
  • For vertical planters/plant bags/rail planters:  Search online at Wayfair for biggest selection, then compare to other sites.  
  • To keep mosquitoes away: Cover your water, or use Summit Mosquito Dunks, which are not toxic to birds and wildlife

Want to see my tools for accessible gardening in real life? Watch my video blog about gardening!

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